Every year, there are approximately 350 - 500 million cases of malaria. More than one million people die from the disease annually. Over 90 per cent of these deaths occur among young children and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria contributes indirectly to many additional deaths, mainly in young children, through synergy with other infections and illnesses.

Malaria is a public health problem in more than 107 countries worldwide. Some 3.2 billion people live in areas at risk of malaria transmission.

Malaria is both a disease of poverty and a cause of poverty. African families can spend up to 25 per cent of their annual income on malaria prevention and treatment. In many countries malaria accounts for up to 40 per cent its total health budgets. Malaria costs up to $14 billion per year in Africa in direct and indirect costs.

There is no prevention that gives full protection against the disease, and there is no vaccine. The best defence against malaria is to reduce the chance of getting bitten by an infected mosquito. Even though the disease is one of the biggest killers in Africa, it is also one of the easiest diseases to prevent, thereby saving millions of lives.

How is the Canadian Red Cross helping to reduce the burden of malaria?

For the past three years, through the generous support of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Canadian Red Cross has been working with its international partners to provide Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets (LLINs) to children under five in the most malaria affected countries in Africa.

Since 2003, Canadian Red Cross has supported the distribution of over 2,600,000 bed nets in: Zambia, Togo, Niger, Mozambique and Malawi as well as an additional 875,000 bed nets to all children under 5 years of age in Sierra Leone.

Red Cross volunteers encourage families to use bed nets and educate them on proper usage. The CRC bed net distribution program is often one part of an integrated campaign effort during which children under 5 are also provided measles vaccination, polio vaccination, vitamin A supplementation, and given anti-worm tablets.